eFinance Part 2 - Critical Components

The basic premise for many financial systems will reside in a fully integrated, centralized system. This consolidated system is typically an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP System. ERP Systems integrate all business processes together, covering a wide range of functions - finance, human resource management, customer relations management, supply chain management, etc. The challenge is to get all of these processes on-line in a real time, global environment. Web based applications are often deployed for meeting this challenge.

For example, e-procurement can be used to streamline the ordering of recurring purchases. No more purchase orders, no more phone messages and other administrative activities. People now spend more of their time finding the best quality supplies at the lowest cost. The best e-procurement applications will automate searching for prices, providing a list of suppliers and integrating the entire process into the ERP System.

Even simple task, such as distribution of financial reports should go on-line through web portals or private intranets. Centralized processing of payments should go on-line, such as paying travel and entertainment expenses to employees. This eliminates the costly manual process and integration takes place directly into the payroll system (part of ERP).

At the high end of ERP is Customer Relations Management or CRM. CRM is sometimes used in conjunction with Sales Force Automation or SFA. SFA will serve to acquire new customers by converting prospects into customers. The process is automated based on pre-defined criteria. CRM works to retain customers through direct personal service. One of the biggest challenges for CRM is to maintain a "personal touch" despite being an on-line service. Technologies such as telephony (voice over IP), real time chat rooms, and other interactive features can help provide the personal touch.

If all of this seems overwhelming, there are some options for rapid deployment at minimal cost. These options are covered by Application Service Providers (ASP's) and Business Service Providers (BSP's). For example, smaller companies may find that www.corio.com can accommodate complete financial accounting through corio's web site. Human resource functions can be outsourced to web sites such as www.employeeservice.com and www.oneclickhr.com. Customer support can be outsourced to www.liveperson.com. Sites such as www.salesforce.com can serve as SFA. Simple on-line storefronts for e-tailing are available through sites such as www.freemerchant.com and www.openmarket.com can even integrate your e-tailing application into your ERP System.

Although eFinance is often seen as limited to things such as electronic payments and distribution of financials, financial professionals may find themselves serving as the driving force behind a host of e-commerce applications. This article has just scratched the surface. Things now change by the hour and financial professionals must play major strategic roles in making eFinance and ERP happen. And to make matters more complicated, the components of eFinance and ERP are extremely diverse. If core competencies are insufficient in meeting this enormous demand for eFinance, then partnering with ASP's and BSP's should be considered.

matt evans photo Written by: Matt H. Evans, CPA, CMA, CFM | Email: matt@exinfm.com | Phone: 1-877-807-8756

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